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070  With All Your Very Much

The title doesn't make sense, does it? You'll understand by the end. But I'll give you the payload right up front: this week's lesson is about what God truly wants from us all. 

It's pretty simple, really. He wants our full-hearted love and complete attention. That's it. Do that, and then respond to whatever He says to you, and you'll have His favor.

In the New Testament "Love God completely" appears all sorts of places, but I'm going to get it from the first and greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus gave that instruction in Matthew 22:35-40, and it's mirrored in Mark 12:28-34. It's also the topic in Luke 10:25-37, where Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. All of them focus on Deuteronomy 6:5, but like any good Rabbi, Jesus assumed that his audience knew that he meant the entire command, which covers Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

There was no dispute in the Judaism of Jesus' day (nor in our day) over what is the greatest commandment of the Law. All Jews know what it is. In Judaism, it's called the Shema (rhymes with "spa," accent on the 2nd syllable). I explained back in 2018 how the object of the question "Which is the greatest commandment?" was actually to understand the priority of commands, which is why Jesus answered by saying what was the greatest and second greatest commandments. If you'd like to revisit that discussion, the link is The Second Greatest Commandment, and its follow-up, A Jewish Take on the Good Samaritan. (And in fact, you can browse all the old RfMemos by visiting my web site,, and clicking on the "Rf Memos Archive" link near the top of the page.)

If some part of you is complaining, "Hey, we're not under the Law," try to understand that the Law has not vanished. What has changed is not that the Law isn't true anymore, it's that now we accomplish what the Law was after by walking in the Spirit (see Romans 8:3-4). But the Law still tells us accurately what God is after, so it pays to understand it.

Here's the command, from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, in transliterated Hebrew and then in English:

"Shema Yisrael YHWH elohaynu YHWH ekhad. V'ahavtah et YHWH elohekha v'kol levavkha uv'kol nafshekha uv'kol m'odekha."

"Hear, Israel! YHWH is our God, YHWH alone! And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might."

Translating the first part is tricky. Except for the command to pay attention, "Shema!" there is no verb in verse 4. It just says "YHWH our God" and then "YHWH one." So the translator has no clue where to place the implied verb, "is." When I was a boy in the synagogue, we used to stick it near the end, "The LORD our God, the LORD is one." "One" in that sentence could be contrasted with "three," taking a shot at trinitarian Christians. But I think the proper translation is the one offered by the 1985 Jewish Publication Society version, which is "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." (You might infer that the lack of a verb reflects the fact that God simply abides, and cannot be understood strictly by what He does. See Exodus 3:14, "I am.")

Now, the fun stuff. 

"V'ahavtah et YHWH elohekha." Simply, "And you shall love YHWH your God."

"V'kol levavkha." The root word here is "levav," which is the heart or the inner thoughts. Taking a cue from Hebrews 4:12, we should think of the heart as "thoughts and intentions." That's consistent with how they viewed it at the time.

"Uv'kol nafshekha." The root here is "nefesh," translated "soul." In Hebrew scripture, "nefesh" is what makes you different from the rocks; it's the life of a sentient being. Animals also have "nefesh"; the writer of Genesis used that word in Gen 1:20, 21, 24, and 30 to describe the animals.

So the command begins by telling us to love YHWH with all our thoughts and intentions and all the life that is in us. This echoes Paul's instructions: "Set your minds on things that are above...where Christ is" (Colossians 3:1-2). "...the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6b). So far, so good.

"Uv'kol m'odekha." Here, I want to pause for a moment to point out that an awful lot of Christians have been taught that Man consists of three parts, being spirit, soul, and body, and they like to say that this greatest command supports that pattern. I have to tell you--you might get that pattern elsewhere in the scriptures, but you can't get it here. This last command has nothing whatsoever to do with the body.

In fact, the root word, "m'od" (rhymes with "toad"), is not even a noun. It's an adverb. It doesn't indicate a thing (like a body), it modifies verbs or adjectives. When a Hebrew-speaker wants to say something is good, he says "tov"; if he wants to say that it's very good, he says "tov m'od." "M'od" amplifies whatever it's pointing to.

So when the command says "Uv'kol m'odekha" it translates directly as "Love YWHW with all your very much." 


If you think it through, it's actually kind of cute. It describes the intensity with which we are to love Him: "love Him with all your OOMPH."

For women, it would be like saying, "Make YHWH the love of your life." For men, it's like saying "Bring your 'A' game, and leave 100% of everything on the field; don't bring anything back with you into the locker room." He's commanding us to live "all in" for God. He wants white-hot love.

This is entirely relevant, because our churches are full of people (including ourselves at times) whose devotion to God is not "very much," it's more like "kinda, sorta." We don't have any argument with God, we know that He's there, but once we've settled the "not going to hell" thing we're content just to show up, not really to commit to anything. 

But if you love God with your "kinda" you're not obeying the greatest command. There's more, and you haven't got it.

(For any non-Americans in the crowd, "kinda" is a contraction for "kind of", and "sorta" is a contraction for "sort of." They're both ways to indicate a half-hearted engagement, like doing a sloppy job and then saying "That will have to do, that's all I've got time for.")

The Laodicean church had that problem in Rev 3:14-22. The message from God there is "If you love Me with your 'kinda, sorta' it will taste awful to Me, and I'll spit you out, ptui." "Kinda, sorta" does nothing for us, and God hates it. He wants "very much" from us.

I was tempted to write "if you love God 'kinda' you may as well stay home," but that's not true. If that's you, church probably isn't doing much for you, but you ought to keep showing up; only, you should pray and ask what will make it work better, so God has a chance to teach you how to love Him properly. You're in church to change and grow; so change and grow.

I could conclude this by listing all the ways we can draw close to God: fellowship, Bible study, prayer time, meditation, service to other believers, service to the poor, etc. But rather than do that, let me encourage you to take the "God's Finger Challenge." By that, I mean ask God out loud, "What one thing can I do to increase the level of my devotion to You? Show me one way that I should be loving you with my 'very much.'" Don't prejudge by automatically assuming that He'll say "give up [write in your pet sin here]"; give God a chance to answer, He'll probably surprise you. What's on His mind is not the same as what's on your mind. Trust me when I tell you that He will surely answer that question. Pay attention, and then do the one thing that God pointed to. 

Your life will get better--really--and you'll be on the road toward loving God "with all your very much."

That's really all that He wants from us. Love Him, all in.

See ya later.


Phil Weingart

If you haven't gotten my books yet, you're in for a treat. Click on either image and you'll be taken to Amazon dot com, where you can order your copy in trade paperback or Kindle format.


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